Panama, the perfect destination
The wedding, for most couples, is the momentous event which should define the quality and substance of the rest of their passage through life. Decisions about the details of this awesome ceremony are therefore most important.
So the couple must decide, first and foremost, where will the wedding be? In times gone by it was simple: the church in the bride’s hometown. Nowadays horizons have broadened and couples are choosing rose gardens, mountaintops, ski lodges, theme parks, beaches or even coral reefs.
Not only has the venue become a matter of sometimes esoteric taste but the ceremony itself often escapes the religious conventions of the past and instead of a priest or pastor blessing the union, a parent or friend officiates on the assumption that the vows will be just as binding and just as much in the sight of God in front of the friends and relatives gathered together.
As to venue, Panama provides a wonderful selection. Hotels in the capital and the provinces, many of which regularly cater to Panamanian weddings, will gladly organize a wedding for couples from abroad, either in the grounds or gardens or at a nearby beach or beauty spot.
Anyone wanting to investigate the possibility of tying the knot in Panama will find that the country is surprisingly sophisticated in this matter. Professional wedding planners offer their services in Panama City, talented photographers are available to record the event and caterers, for traditional, international or ethnic fare, will quote for any type and size of reception.
If the ceremony is to be casual in the manner mentioned above, everything is easy. Should a visiting couple require a civil or religious ceremony there are a number of requirements. One, which will seem odd, perhaps, is that for a civil wedding, the couple needs a “certificado de soltería” or document certifying that they are single. Other requirements are a birth certificate, a certificate of good health and two witnesses. The documents have to be authenticated in the country of origin, usually by a process known as “apostille” involving a Panamanian consulate. All documents have to be translated into Spanish by an authorized public translator.
For religious ceremonies, there are also requirements such as a baptism certificate and pre-nuptial talks with a minister. It depends on the denomination. So if a civil or religious wedding is contemplated, it is best to consult a wedding planner.One of the most experienced companies is “Gran Evento” which specialises in destination weddings. They regularly organize weddings for couples from many countries. They will do everything from finding a horse-drawn carriage to laying on pre-wedding tours and activities for any number of guests. Ms. Jaymar Pinzón, manager of Gran Evento says:
“Even though destination weddings may seem to be hard to plan, they are almost guaranteed to be simpler (and faster) to organize than a traditional wedding ceremony and reception and so much more affordable than regular in-state weddings. In Panama, an overall budget (lodging, meals, drinks, entertainment, decor and airfare) could represent half or even a third of what it would cost the average wedding in most big cities of the United States. “
The Panama Tourism Bureau (ATP, Autoridad de Turismo de Panama) apparently has plans to introduce a law making it easier for foreigners to wed here.
One of the obvious advantages of a wedding in Panama is that the honeymoon destination is combined. Beach and island hotels, lodges, inns and boutique hotels in the mountains provide idyllic getaways. Another advantage for some is that while the list of invitees in one’s hometown often runs into treble digit figures, few will travel abroad for the event, so costs are minimized.
Some hotels in the Caribbean have for years done big business in “getaway” weddings, especially with Japanese clients. Apparently the obligatory lavish ceremony in their country comes with an exorbitant cost.
The wedding on the beach
The photographs of the ceremony on the beach in this article were of the wedding of Samara and Moritz Fortmann taken by photographer Jennifer Moloney in Bocas de Toro. The couple were married in Los Angeles a year previously but chose to reaffirm their vows in a simple ceremony on the beach.
Some hotels to check
The following is a list of some of the hotels which cater for weddings. Their contact information can be found in “Guide to Lodging” or see the Advertisers’ IndexRoyal Decameron - Located on a Pacific beach, the Royal Decameron offers an all-inclusive plan, with an assigned wedding planner, all documentation handled, witnesses, flowers, cake and “bubbly” provided, even a golf cart for the bride and groom and extras like spa massages.
Hotel Radisson -This new hotel has a spectacular pool and spacious salons suitable for wedding receptions. It has the advantage of being close to Panama City (and the Miraflores Locks on the Canal) but set in beautiful countryside.Bern Hotels - This Panamanian group has several hotels ideal for weddings and provides a specialist to attend to every detail. The Gamboa Rainforest Resort is an impressive lakeside hotel in the forest reserve of the Panama Canal. The elegant Playa Bonita is the beach hotel closest to the city just 15 minutes from the Bridge of the Americas. In the City itself, the Intercontinental Miramar on Avenida Balboa is dramatically situated right on the bayfront and the Crowne Plaza is centrally situated. The Holiday Inn is in the City of Knowledge 15 minutes from the city alongside the Canal.
Hotel El Panama -Traditionally the hotel for events in the capital, Hotel El Panama is centrally located on Via España and has a very large pool and surrounding gardens which form an ideal setting for a wedding.Finisterre Suites - This is a new hotel in the banking district with excellent facilities for a wedding reception.
Albrook Inn - A charming small hotel which caters for weddings in the quiet and green surroundings of the former Canal Zone but ten minutes from the center of the city.
The fashions of Helen Breebaart
Discerning brides looking for something special should visit the boutique of Helen Breebaart. Helen is a French born designer resident in Panama for over 30 years. Her unique designs of intricate beading, applique and even painting are inspired by nature and the native Indian designs of Panama.
Current designs include a bespoke gown for a wedding in France (shown above). Helen is dressing the bride in a sumptuous gown embellished with a motif inspired by a Kuna Indian mola.
Helen Breebaart, Calle Abel Bravo, Casa # 5, Obarrio. (507) 264 5937. email@example.com
Hotels in Chiriqui
For large weddings, the traditional venue in the provincial capital of David is the Gran Hotel Nacional which has a pool and garden area ideal for an outdoor reception.
The other sizeable hotel is the Hotel Ciudad de David whose banquet hall and modern instalations are excellent.
In the highlands, Boquete has several hotels which cater for weddings. The management of the Hotel Ladera fronting the Caldera River prides itself on its organization and catering and offers special rates for wedding guests.
The exquisite surroundings of the Lerida Ecoresort on a coffee plantation high on the mountainside would be a tempting venue.
The famous Valle Escondido hotel and resort in its hidden valley a few minutes walk from the town of Boquete is one of the most picturesque settings.
For a small wedding you couldn’t beat Rancho de Caldera, a secluded American-owned boutique hotel surrounded by glorious mountain views.
On the other side of the Volcan Baru, high in the Friendship International Park, a cloudforest wedding can be catered at Panama’s highest hostelry Los Quetzales Lodge and Spa. Its high-ceilinged dining and recreation area built and panelled entirely in native hardwoods is big enough for a fairly large gathering.
Hotel Bambito, set in a spectacular gorge in the mountains above Volcan, is surrounded by exquisite gardens. The covered pool is also popular for wedding ceremonies.